To quote the one and only Elton John: the b*tch is back!
As a matter fact, Pride Month is The Frida Cinema’s first full month reopened, and we couldn’t be happier! What better way to celebrate the most colorful month of the year than returning to our most colorful program Frida After Dark!
Originally conceived as “Friday Night Freakouts” and sponsored by OC Weekly (R.I.P.), “Frida After Dark” extends the whackiest, culty-est, most not-safe-for-matinee screenings all weekend long! You want interactive, shadowcast and spoon-filled classics? FAD’s got it! You got a hankering for some artsy, all-time faves, from this decade and many’s past? FAD’s gonna give it to ya! Got a thing for camp, zombies, schlock, the macabre, AND rock operas? You don’t have to choose with Frida After Dark– we’ve done it, and we’ll do it again, but with an exciting new take since no two months are ever the same!
This month, we’re playing some underappreciated installments in the Pride canon, with the most hilarious, filthy, and rockin’ flicks reserved for your big night out with the boys, girls, gays, and enbies.
But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)
Gimme a “4”! Gimme a “k”! What’s that spell? The new gorgeous 4K restoration of the 1999 cult classic, But I’m a Cheerleader! Decades ahead of its time, the director’s cut from legendary lesbian Jamie Babbit is finally seeing the light of day; after being unfairly rated an NC-17 by the MPAA, Babbit made the hard decision to cut scenes to allow for an R-rating (though not without putting up a good fight). It seems the world’s catching up a bit, and can enjoy some truly honest, fun satire that resonates now more than ever.
The coming-of-age story follows Megan (played by a young Natasha Lyone), a plucky, goody-two-shoes vegetarian cheerleader who is totally, definitely straight! She loves Jesus, gazing at her fellow female squadmates, Melissa Etheridge, and her boyfriend– except the whole part where she has to kiss him.
But when everyone around her shows concern for her “homosexual” behavior, Megan realizes some things– and is quickly sent off to conversion therapy program called True Directions. There, she’s surrounded by other queer kids, including a rather rebelleous and unapologetic lesbian named Graham. With strict leaders and dumb, stereotypical exercises meant to engrain the heteronormativity in them the path to “ex-gay”-dom is far from easy. What ever will a bunch of same-sex attracted teens subjected to group trauma do together to pass the time?
Don’t forget the awesome indie-rock soundtrack and star-studded cast of minor characters! RuPaul Charles, the world’s most famous drag queen plays the camp’s reformed ex-gay boys’ coach named Mike in a campy performance for the gods. Even the ex-ex-gays and counselors alike are played by cult icons and TV legends like Melanie Lynskey, Joel Michaely, Richard Moll, and more!
Female Trouble (1975)
“If they’re smart, they’re queer– if they’re stupid, they’re straight.”
No Pride month or discussion of queer cinema would be complete without at least a mention of the endearingly called “King of Filth” John Waters. As the trailer declares, Female Trouble is “a new high in low taste”, and considered by many to be John Waters’ best film. Three years after the notorious Pink Flamingos, the power-duo of Waters and Divine return, with an even more solid narrative — one which was inspired by and dedicated to Manson Family member Charles “Tex” Watson, who Waters became acquainted with through prison visits (yes, seriously).
Divine’s shameless persona is front and center, as she plays a teen girl named Dawn, who goes off the rails when she doesn’t get her desired cha-cha heels for Christmas. According to her folks: “nice girls don’t wear cha-cha heels”! Big, beautiful, and BAD as the person who portrays her, Dawn goes on a rampage and runs away, gets picked up by a guy named Earl, and subsequently knocked up after they screw on an abandoned mattress in the local dump. She then takes up sex work when she reconnects with some high-school friends. Typical rebellious teen stuff, y’know?
Now with a punching-bag daughter named Taffy, Dawn doesn’t neglect her beauty or desire for a man fall to the wayside of her life of crime. In fact, she’s a regular at a salon, gets married, and then enticed into a brand-new scheme by the salon’s owners under the philosophy: “crime and beauty are the same”. Eager for the fame, money, and beauty most of all, Dawn spirals even farther into the depraved, cruel, and insubordinate.
John Waters’ less… conventional films certainly aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but you’d have to be hard-pressed not to respect the hell out of them. Counter-cultural, underground, and unapologetically queer as they come, Waters takes the “forbidden subject” and smashes through the “line” one shouldn’t cross. At a time when drag is becoming more polished and mainstream than ever while Pride is being commercialized and sold, it’s never a wrong time to remember that irreverence, filth, and activism are at the heart of queer culture.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
One weekend and one weekend ONLY: the musical stylings of Hedwig and the Angry Inch–a local band near you led by the gender-queer Hedwig Robinson from East Germany. She’s a glamorous, “internationally ignored” songwriter and front woman, outcast even in the dingy diners where she plays gigs. An all-original soundtrack and music video-like sequences tell her story, from her childhood as a rock ‘n roll-loving little boy born in East Germany to the botched sex change surgery which left her with the fleshy “angry inch” and a failed marriage.
Despite her past failed relationships, Hedwig dreams of finding her other half, the soulmate meant to complete her. Her own music illustrates her life, desires, and how she got to where she is though uninhabited, pure punk rock and heartfelt ballads. It’s a film that can make you laugh, make you cry, and have you streaming the soundtrack but the time you get back home from the theater.
Adapted from the musical of the same, the film adaptation is directed, written, and performed by the original Hedwig herself: John Cameron Mitchell, who proudly described it as a “post-punk, neo-glam rock musical”. A uniquely heartfelt, cathartic journey of identity and finding wholeness within oneself which transcends gender and genre alike, Hedwig and the Angry Inch‘s characters, humor, and aesthetics are just as addicting as the killer tracks.
This is one you definitely don’t want to miss on the big screen, especially since we’ll be playing its much deserved 4k restoration from Criterion!
Whilst getting some much needed sun, returning back to the theater, and supporting your local LGBTQ+ organizations and causes, do stay safe and courteous to those around you, regardless of where you go.
And remember, kids: the first Pride was a riot! As Marsha P. Johnson said: No Pride for Some of Us Without Liberation For All of Us.🌈